We’ve all read them. Books, articles and blogs on leadership, all espousing what it really takes to be a leader in today’s hectic, fast-paced world. In these challenging times of non-stop innovation and advancing technology, however, the articles I read on leadership seem much the same. Each is filled with many of the same adjectives and characteristics that we have used to define leadership for the past 30+ years. This is probably because we continue to define leadership in the same way.
The model hasn’t changed. Hear the word “leadership”, and we see the same thing; a man or woman standing on a pedestal and people crowded around listening to his/her every word for explicit instructions about what we are to do next. The leader is defined with the same characteristics –bold, courageous, decisive, a take action/take charge person, positive but driven and demanding. He’s the quarterback, the all-knowing Peyton Manning or Tom Brady individual who personifies the organization and its success. And so, we continue down a path defining leadership in the new millennium just as we did in the 1970’s and 80’s, using the same model and adjectives to describe a leadership model we used years ago. What are we thinking?
Our world today is vastly different from what it was even 17 years ago at the turn of the century and the model for leadership in today’s world of technology-driven madness and instant self-gratification needs to be different as well. If there is such a thing as Leadership 2.0 – I would contend it isn’t what you think it is. Successful leaders in today’s world, those who choose to practice Leadership 2.0 as I have termed it, will see their role as a leader defined by very different characteristics and principles.
The Best Leaders are the Best Listeners
Today’s workforce is made up of almost 50% new Millennials. They know technology better than any previous generation and they have grown up in an environment where they were nurtured in a way that previous generations were not. Add the influence of social media in our lives, and it is no wonder they all want to be heard. They value their ideas and they want to contribute and be recognized. Today’s leaders need to recognize that this group is now a huge part of the workforce they are leading and in doing so, must encourage more collaboration. Leaders need to ask more questions and then….listen intently. Here’s why.
When Leaders Listen They Learn
Yes, when we as leaders ask questions and then actively listen, we learn. All too often, leaders want to spew out their ideas instead of asking questions in order to gain new insights. We all need to be life-long learners if we are going to grow and make better decisions for ourselves and the organizations/companies we work for. Today’s leader acknowledges that he/she does not have all the answers and needs to get input from individuals throughout the organization. He/she understands the simple premise – when I listen, I learn.
Leaders Lead Themselves First
In today’s world more than ever before, anyone and everyone is under a microscope. Social media, cameras on our cell phones, it is all available to the masses 24/7 and if you choose to be a leader, you need to be both responsible and disciplined in leading yourself first. As a leader it is critical that we always strive to be a person of integrity. I do realize, however, that no one is perfect. That is to be understood, but unfortunately not everyone in our world is anxious to practice forgiveness or give us second chances. If you want to hold a position of leadership and be respected for the job you do, be respectful of that position and the people who report to you. When you give respect, you tend to get respect in return.
Leaders Are Compassionate
Leaders need to be caring individuals. There is a simple quote that reads, “In a world full of people who could care less, be someone who couldn’t care more.” While CEO’s of publicly traded companies have always justified their layoffs and resource actions by declaring that shareholder value is the number one priority, leaders in today’s world need to realize that there is no greater asset of any organization or company than its people. Genuinely care about your people and communicate that compassion and they will be more engaged in their work and perform at their highest level.
Real Leaders Serve
This isn’t our world. We come into this world with nothing and when we leave, we take nothing with us. If we look at the bigger picture of our lives, our true purpose in life, we are here to serve others and make this world a better place. Maybe Fred Rogers of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” said it best, “At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Our job is to do anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings. Life is for service.” Real leaders serve.
Real Leaders Provide HOPE for a Better Future
In the end, what do real leaders do for us? From my experience and perspective, the best leaders I have ever been around were those people who inspired me and my colleagues to believe that we could always make tomorrow better than today. They inspired me/us to have HOPE that ultimately, we could right the ship and make things better! Now, when I think about this characteristic, I realize that each of us have a leadership role to play. These are challenging times for us as individuals and for our families, our communities and really, the world we live in. Bottom line, we ALL have a leadership role to play. We each need to make the choice to be a leader, to be someone who can be optimistic and see a better tomorrow despite what we see on the six o’clock news. When we do this, we achieve what I call Leadership for Everyday Living. Maybe we should call it Leadership 2.0. Whatever it is, whatever we choose to call it…make the choice to lead.